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Applicants for junior doctor posts who have already been offered interviews under the computerised Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) have been advised to carry on and attend these—even if they have more than one interview lined up.
The advice came as it was announced that the discredited MTAS shortlisting system would, in effect, be scrapped and all candidates offered one interview instead.
Neil Douglas, chairman of the MTAS review group, said candidates would be told on 2 April how the new job application arrangements would continue. “In the meantime, interviews will continue, and applicants should attend unless they are confident that this will not be their preferred choice,” he said.
His message was confirmed by Alan Crockard, national director of Modernising Medical Careers, in an email to applicants on 23 March. Until the new guidance is issued candidates should attend the interviews they have been called for, he said.
The news follows a march on 17 March, in which 10000 angry junior doctors and their supporters protested at the MTAS system (BMJ 2007;334:602-3, 24 Mar, doi: 10.1136/bmj.39160.616470.DB).
Despite their actions, the review group refused to scrap the entire process. The compromise meant an interview for every candidate. It only emerged later that this meant just one interview for every candidate.
Candidates had been able to apply for four posts under MTAS and many had already been offered more than one interview. Under the new plan they would be asked to select the one post they wanted most and to forgo the others, allowing interviews for those posts to be offered to other applicants.
At this point, the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, which had been party to the talks, walked out. They argued this proposal would disadvantage applicants who had already been offered more than one interview.
Jo Hilborne, chairwoman of the committee, said, “Restricting doctors to one interview would not be acceptable to the 11000 applicants who have already been offered more than one and would now see these opportunities taken away.”
But doctors with interviews arranged before the new guidance is issued will still be able to attend them. However, they will have to opt for their chosen post before being told the outcome of the interviews.
The competition ratios are available on the MTAS website (www.mtas.nhs.uk).
This new approach, he said, was the most equitable and practical solution available. He recognised that extra time and effort would be required for further interviews.
“Therefore first choice interviews that have already taken place should not need to be repeated,” he said.
Exact details of the new process are due to be posted on the Modernising Medical Careers website (www.mmc.nhs.uk) in the week starting 2 April.
See also Lynn Eaton's news update on MTAS at bmj.com.